Living & Creating in Fiber Nation

I’m a fiber-obsessive. I haunt yarn shops, go to wool festivals, and visit the studios of weavers, dyers, and designers. I also listen to a lot of podcasts; many fiber arts are solitary activities, and podcasts are great to listen to while working. And I love how podcasts take me into strange new worlds and make me care about things such as Hawaiian shirts or eccentric geniuses in Alabama.

I had this crazy idea. Why not do a knitting podcast for Interweave, one that would bring others into our strange world—a world of sheep and spinners and yarn shops and other knitterly topics?

knitting podcast

A face made for radio. Me in the studio.

There were two main challenges: Knitting is a visual medium, and podcasts are not. And if you are not a knitter, you are likely to find knitting podcasts really dull. (Granted, that might be the case even if you are a knitter, but I remain hopeful.) The answer to both was to find good, compelling stories that focus on the people who make the stuff we love, not just that stuff itself. That’s the premise behind Fiber Nation: It’s a knitting podcast that goes beyond knitting.

knitting podcast

One of the books discussed on Episode 1.

Episode 1 was a no-brainer. Linda Ligon started Interweave in 1975, but the episode focuses on her work after she left Interweave. As the founder and publisher of Thrums Books. Linda has traveled the world many times over, documenting global textile traditions and shining a light on the people behind the cloth. Linda is full of stories, but we chose three for the episode; of those, the one about traveling to Afghanistan (affiliate link) stands out for me, not just because of the scary or angry-making bits involving the Taliban, but because of an incredibly poignant moment with a housekeeper in Kandahar.

knitting podcast

Special guests on Episode 2.

For Episode 2, I stuck a little closer to home. Kate Larson is the editor of Spin Off magazine, but she’s also a shepherd with a flock of 60 sheep. I’ve long had a fantasy of raising sheep, so this was a great opportunity to learn more about what goes into each skein we buy. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot of hard work and harder decisions.

Needless to say, creating a knitting podcast has a steep learning curve. Taping an interview is just the beginning. I then rough out a script that combines the interview with my narration, and meet with my executive producer to further sculpt the story we want to tell. Often, we are in total agreement, but there are times of “lively discussion.” I may have threatened to hide raw bacon in his office at one point.

Other random discoveries: If you need to record a follow-up interview in your dining room, it will sound very different from the one you recorded in a professional studio. That music you hear? It sets a mood, but it also helps move things along when a story drags. Finding that music? Set aside several hours for each show, just to get perhaps six minutes of music, total. Set aside many more hours for research, even if 90 percent of it never makes its way into the episode. If you want natural sounds, an iPhone is a fabulous tool, and if you need sheep to make noise, walk away without feeding them.

I hope you check out Fiber Nation. We have more planned episodes, which range from starting wool mills to disrupting family dynamics to crafting as contemplation. Stay tuned!

Allison


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